Industry Research

How To Zig When Others Zag

Sara Eastwood-Richardson
Posted on September 1, 2016

✓ Free for personal and commercial use✓ No attribution required(Photo from Pexel)
✓ Free for personal and commercial use✓ No attribution required(Photo from Pexel)
The idea behind Uber came from a techie named Travis Kalanick. In a perfect storm of desperate, out-of-work recession victims and the overwhelming disdain towards an archaic, hail-based taxi business in San Francisco, Kalanick saw his opportunity. With the help of some Silicon Valley programmers, he led the development of a slick app based on GPS-styled technology that linked to a black car type service call Uber.

Our industry had nothing to do with this. We are not a hail industry. You cannot find an article that compares Uber with chauffeured car. Uber, along with its TNC followers, is a hail, or better known in the New Economy as “on-demand” service. It directly set its sights on competing against taxis, not us. That said, we have found ourselves caught in the crosshairs. The TNC market has exposed our weaknesses — primarily our identity. We have failed as an industry to set ourselves apart from the TNC business model. We know we are not taxi companies. We are not shuttle providers. So, who are we? Who is our primary target market? Do we really know our clients? What do they want from us today? In other words, what are the needs and how are we filling them by today’s standards (not yesterdays)?

The ground game is on. The activity on the local level is good, but should be better. Not enough operators step up to help fight at the state and national levels. In most cases, fewer than six regional representatives attend regulatory meetings at any time. The TNC pressure is felt more in the urban markets, but everyone still can and should be doing some kind of work with the fight — even if it means simply signing a petition.

Equally important is our branding as an industry. It’s not surprising the average consumer doesn’t know we exist. We have always been a reservation-based, high-end option in for-hire transportation. Our corporate clients are starting to quietly use Uber (or so I’m told) and tune out our pleas.

In 2009 our industry was on life support. More than 6,000 operators closed their doors and most coachbuilders went out of business while Ford shuttered the Town Car plant. We could have lost this niche industry altogether. Instead, we found a new need for motorcoaches and charter trips. We seized the opportunity to compete for the DMC business and go direct. We figured out how to outpace the tour bus industry by using our exceptional customer service skills on clients who had never experienced us before. We figured out a way to sell our services differently and we found new customers. We started to create strategic alliances with one another to share contacts. And we re-emerged stronger than ever. When the limousine business dried up, we sought out a new need and filled it.

To those of you who have the drive, that leaves a great opportunity today. Uber has been around long enough to rack up a big list of no-no’s to compete against. You need to know all their weaknesses, but moreover all your strengths. Then you need to get out there and sell value. Many reasons remain why people prefer your type of business to others, including good old-fashioned peace-of-mind and pampering. This starts by rounding up your clients input so you are clear in what they want from your service (don’t assume or interpret).

Find the needs and then fill them. Then you will remain relevant, and even better, your sales will soar.

Related Topics: building your clientele, How To, industry trends, LCT Publisher, on-demand service, Sara Eastwood-Richardson, staying competitive, taxis, TNCs, Uber

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